A roundup of Sunday editorials from Alabama’s leading newspapers:
Anniston Star – It’s time for Alabamians to save state parks
Those who say they are deeply in love with Alabama State Parks will have a chance this fall to prove their dedication. It’s about time.
Parks such as the one atop Mount Cheaha are among the state’s true treasures, yet they remain embroiled in Alabama’s ever-present financial difficulties. It’s the cross virtually anything that receives state funds must carry. Last year, cuts to the Alabama Department of Conservation’s funding forced officials to close five parks. Others were threatened. Outdoors-loving Alabamians rose in protest, but they couldn’t force the parks to reopen or guarantee that more closures wouldn’t occur.
This spring, a bill — SB260 — passed through the state House and Senate that is designed to protect state parks’ future funding. The Senate OK’ed it March. The House passed it last week. So, voters in November will see a constitutional amendment on the ballot that, if approved, would prohibit the use of money designated for the state parks system for any other use. (State parks funding couldn’t be used to shore up another state department, in other words.) The amendment would include a $50 million cap on annual revenue for state parks.
Birmingham News – Robert Bentley impeachment must break Montgomery’s no-snitching culture
On a Sunday afternoon in March 2013, as many as 800 people gathered in Birmingham’s Railroad Park when gunfire erupted. When it stopped, 15-year-old Jarmaine Walton lay dead after taking a bullet to the head.
Sure, not everybody in the park that day would have been looking in the same direction. When guns go off, crowds panic. People run. It’s understandable that not everyone would have seen the shooter.
But when the shooter did go on trial, there was one witness. Just one. Out of eight hundred.
No one else came forward. No one else wanted to get involved.
Decatur Daily – Hits and misses
DU accelerates bike trail repairs
Kudos to Decatur Utilities, which has completed repairs of most of the Bill Sims Bicycle Trail after having excavated parts of it for sewer installation.
The number of complaints while the trail was interrupted is a reminder of how valuable it is to the community.
DU had to remove parts of the trail during the winter as part of a $7 million installation of two force mains and 32,400 feet of sewer pipe that will stretch from Stratford Road Southeast through Old Decatur to Wilson Street Northwest.
While the many users of the trail were understandably impatient, the DU contractor had reasons for delaying trail repairs. The sewer pipe had to be covered with rock, which had to settle before asphalt could be laid.
DU last month said the repairs would not be complete until sometime this summer. The earlier repairs are important to the many people who use the trail, which is especially popular in the spring. DU officials recognized this was a high priority, and they acted appropriately.
Dothan Eagle – Clearing hurdles for research
Alabama lawmakers passed a measure this week that would have a great impact for some families wrestling with particular difficult-to-treat medical conditions. The bill to decriminalize a cannabis derivative passed both houses with overwhelming support, and goes to Gov. Robert Bentley to be signed into law.
The measure overcame the misperception associating cannbidiol with marijuana, the plant from which it is derived. Cannabidiol is marijuana oil containing minute amounts of the active ingredient of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The amount of THC in marijuana oil doesn’t trigger the reaction that marijuana does; however, it does provide relief for some patients suffering from seizures.
Some Alabama residents with children whose medical conditions are drastically improved by CBD oil have moved to other states so that the oil can be legally procured. The Alabama bill clears the way for CBD oil containing up to 0.3 percent THC.
Enterprise Ledger – Seven things I learned last weekend from the links
When I was fit (yes, there was a time), I loved going out for a round of golf. The key word there is “a” as even in the best of times playing two rounds – 36 holes – just seemed ridiculous.
I played 36 holes Saturday with an old friend, his son and his son’s friend while they were vacationing at the coast.
Here are seven things I learned:
The community of Muscle Shoals has a unique opportunity in the months ahead to breathe some life into an 156-year-old church that stands largely unused today.
In the coming months, an advisory team of 15 residents will be formed to set in motion an effort to find new uses for the St. John’s Episcopal Church. The effort will benefit from the technical expertise of representatives from Partners for Sacred Places, a Philadelphia agency that works with communities to identify creative ways to help bring historic churches back into active use.
St. John’s, which was first used in October 1852, was a religious cornerstone for the Muscle Shoals community until regular services ceased in 1955. But each year the church’s doors open in November for an All Saints’ Day service.
Tom Osborne and Ninon Parker believe the church is a community asset that is just not being utilized.
Gadsden Times – Don’t panic when bees swarm, we need them
Bees are fascinating creatures. Google the phrase “interesting facts about bees,” and you’ll come back with a plethora of links offering an equally plentiful assortment of tidbits. (The sheer number is why we’re not listing any.)
Bees are important creatures. If not for their work as pollinators, humans and animals would be awfully hungry. According to Michigan State University’s website, bees are responsible for 1 of every 3 bites of our food. Pollination is essential to the growth of fruits and vegetables, hay, nut trees and fiber plants like cotton, increasing U.S. crop values by $15 billion annually according to the USDA. (We haven’t even gotten to Winnie the Pooh’s favorite substance.)
Bees also are frightening creatures to those who are unfamiliar with their quirks and have experienced the pain of their stings or face life-threatening reactions when they happen.
There was a lot of big news this week, but how closely were you paying attention?
Can you get a higher score than our Public Interest and Advocacy team manager, Mike Oliver? He only missed two. Post your score in the comments below. And, remember, no spoilers!
The state of Alabama was once on the cutting edge of emergency medical care.
It is hard to believe today, but there hasn’t always been a universal number that any individual could call to seek help during an emergency. If you wanted the police, you dialed your local police station. If your house was on fire, you called the nearest fire department. If you needed any emergency help, you dialed the individual you needed. If you didn’t know the number, you were out of luck.
That changed on February 16, 1968, when Rankin Fite, the Speaker of the Alabama State House of Representatives, picked up the phone and ceremoniously dialed three digits.
Montgomery Advertiser – Are we ready for prenatal children?
Let’s assume that Alabama voters pass a referendum approving the constitutional amendment that Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, perennially offers – the personhood amendment which decrees that life begins at “fertilization” and an embryo or fetus is a person. Supporters of the bill contemplate that “prenatal children” would receive the equal protection of all the same laws that others enjoy. This is an example of many of the bills sponsored by Republican legislators over the past five years. They are at best, ill-conceived and, at worst, absurd.
Have you ever taken one of those surveys that grade your responses based on the number of times you answer “yes” or “no”? To illustrate the absurdity of the bill, here is a questionnaire based on the assumption that a fetus is a person.
Opelika-Auburn News – Harriet Tubman earned her spot on much more than a $20 bill
Most Americans, excluding those holding a history degree or taking part in a high school history class, likely could not have answered a pop quiz before last week if asked: Who is Harriet Tubman?
Many still can’t, but they might nonetheless express understanding and agreement that it’s past time a woman be remembered on a piece of American currency, let alone a black woman.
It was appropriate that such an announcement was made adding Tubman to the $20 bill.
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew shared the news, and he also explained that Tubman will replace Andrew Jackson, ironically a former slave holder, instead of Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill as previously was considered.
So who was Tubman and why should Alabama residents care?
Tuscaloosa News – Ethics Commission deserves applause for transparency
To say there are some ethical issues in Alabama government is an understatement of extreme proportions.
To say we get the government we deserve is an oversimplification.
In this day and age, trying to keep up with the information coming at us in so many various forms is akin to trying to drink out of a firehose. Wading through it all to get the information we need, to filter out the truth and what’s important, is a challenge. Unfortunately, this ever-increasing volume of information is one of the biggest obstacles to ensuring transparent government. With all that noise, the public’s business can too easily be conducted in private.
Furthermore, when violations of open meetings and public records laws are deliberate, the penalties are minimal. With little to fear, government employees and elected officials are more likely to hide and withhold important public information, especially when that information is less than positive.